Nov 30, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 30

"Because a thankful heart is a happy heart,
I'm glad for what I have,
That's an easy way to start!
For the love that He shares,
Cause He listens to my prayers,
That's why I say thanks everyday!"
~from "Madame Blueberry," a Veggie Tales episode everyone should watch

Nov 29, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--days 26, 27, 28, 29

I know I said I was going to be thankful for something every day, but actually, what I am really thankful for is time off.  I had a five day break for Thanksgiving, and it might have been the best break ever, maybe even better than that spring break PJ and I spent in Ft. Lauderdale.  Definitely better.

Day 26:  I am thankful for a break from work.  I needed to do some very important things like watch season one of Mad Men, sleep, visit with my family, make baby presents for three showers this week (!), put up my Christmas tree, and teach my child some manners.

Day 27:  One of the family members I visited over my break was my Grandmama King, and while I was there, I realized how lucky Cara is to have so many grandmamas!  Counting the greats and the steps, the baby has SIX grandmamas!  No wonder she is so spoiled! :-)  (Side note:  Going through all these little baby pictures makes me incredibly sentimental!  I can't believe that my baby is now a toddler who is swiftly moving toward little girl.  I'm actually tearing up as I type this.  Do other moms get this way?)
Cara and MeMa
Cara and Bitsy
Cara and Grandmama Ruby
Cara and Grandmama King
Cara and Mimi (PJ's dad's wife)
Cara and Kaz (my dad's wife)
Day 28:  I am thankful for leftovers.  Need I say more?

Day 29:  I am thankful for the season of Christmas.  I love everything about it.  The chill in the air, Christmas trees, Christmas music, picking out and making gifts, baking, snuggling by a doesn't get much better!  I love the homey family-ness of Christmas. 

When we unpack the ornaments to decorate the tree, I love that I get to relive all my childhood Christmases.  My parents gave me a new ornament every year, which means that our tree can get quite full, but this year, two-thirds of those ornaments are still in their boxes.  The wild toddler LOVES the ornaments so much that she has already broken a few of them.  Mainly, I have been worried that she's going to love that tree so much that it falls on top of her!  I have given up trying to keep the ornaments on the tree.  There's no hope!  But it doesn't matter.  I am so thankful for all of the precious reasons that it just doesn't matter.

Nov 25, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--days 24 and 25

Day 24:  I am thankful that I got to go eat lunch at school with Cara yesterday.  (Gosh, when I re-read that sentence, it sounds like she is in elementary or middle school.  No, please, never.)  Her school had a Thanksgiving feast and invited all of the parents to come in.  The older classes even had little pilgrim hats and collars and little programs.  How adorable is that?  I am really bad at little-kid-school-room-mom-cutesy kinds of things.  It does not even occur to me to send Valentines for the class or make sure I return the signed papers.  This is particularly embarrassing because I am a freaking teacher.  High school students don't do that kind of thing.  However, I will remember to make her teachers Christmas presents (I say that in case they are reading! :-).  After hanging out for just one lunch, I realized that Cara's teachers do an incredible job of herding those cats.  It never ceases to amaze me that those kids rarely get hurt, all get fed, and all take naps ON MATS.  I think Ms. Wendy hypnotizes them as soon as all the parents leave...

Day 25:  I am thankful for my family.  This should go without saying, but I'm saying it because it's Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for PJ and Cara, Bitsy, Granddaddy, and Kaz, who were all here to hang out today.  Cara loved being the center of attention all day (as if that's unusual), and the turkey wasn't overcooked.  Success!  However, I missed the rest of my family, especially my mama, but I know they were well-fed down at the beach, and I missed seeing Larry, Erin, Jacob, and Ava because they are always a fun crowd.  I am so blessed to have too many options on holidays. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  What are you thankful for today?

Nov 24, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 23

I am so thankful that Jennifer Grey won Dancing with the Stars because
no one puts Baby in the corner.

(yes...I had to go there.)

Nov 22, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 22

I am thankful for you. 

Sometimes I feel a little silly writing this blog because really, who is interested in my thoughts, opinions, rants, or musings?  And, besides my family, who is interested in pictures and videos of my child?  But I keep doing it because I like it.  I read lots of other blogs written by other parents, my friends, even complete strangers, and I realized that I like knowing that I am not the only one who overshares about joys, struggles, food, vacations, milestones, and everything else in my life.  It helps us all connect; we celebrate and struggle together.

I also just like to write.  I forgot for a long time that I like to write, but now that I have started doing it again, it's one of my favorite things to do (right behind reading, watching TV, and cooking).  Writing should be read, and just when I think that nobody is reading this, someone will randomly tell me that they read it.  And that makes me feel really good, especially when they follow the "I read it" with something nice about it. 

So, truly, thank you for reading.  Who are you?  Do you have something you write that I can read (I really like to read)?  Do you have any suggestions for how I can be better at this blogging thing (I also like to get better)? 

Nov 21, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--days 20 and 21

Apparently, disappointment makes me productive.  This weekend, I made six appliqued t-shirts, and I finally finished dress #5:

Why, yes, actually this dress does look remarkably similar to dresses #3 and #4:



These dresses were all made by the same pattern that I have now run into the ground.  I have learned quite a lot though, so (day 20) thank you, Simplicity #2674.  I'm still not so good at zippers, but I think I have finally mastered sleeves.  I have a much better idea of how to finish armholes too, thanks to sewing club president Laura.  Yes, I just named you president of sewing club.

For day 21, I am trying really hard to be thankful for disappointment, especially for the new perspective it can bring and lessons it can teach.  This is a difficult thing to be thankful for.  I am a perfectionist and a pleaser, so feeling like I failed (which I did; I failed) is close to the worst feeling ever, especially when I can't see why or how I can fix it.  I understand constructive criticism and the learning process, but I have never encountered something that I couldn't accomplish in the end.  Except for learning to drive a stick, but I didn't really want to learn that.  This was something I wanted, but I have begun to question why.  What were my motivators?  If my honest answer is money, then I have wasted a lot of time and effort with nothing to show for it.  And I think that is the most difficult pill to swallow.  Lesson learned.  Perspective gained.  Thank you.

Nov 19, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 19

After receiving some rather disappointing news today, I am thankful for distractions like:

reading material: Freakonomics, INSTYLE, and Better Homes and Gardens...(I am nothing if not well-rounded, I suppose.)

fabric and zippers that arrive in the mail (my first online fabric purchase!)

and encouraging facebook wall posts.

Nov 18, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--days 17 and 18

I have been doing a lot of listening, thinking, and reading (this article and this article are particularly helpful) about toddler development and discipline, and I have drawn some conclusions about what might work best for Cara and for me.  However, I want to clarify this first: when my pediatrician suggested that we withhold affection, I do not think he meant neglecting or rejecting our child, which would be cruel and almost abusive.  My understanding of this method is that parents do not reward bad behavior with positive attention.  Based on what I have read lately, it seems that toddlers often act out in order to get their parents' attention, so the thinking here is that you don't reward them with hugs, kisses, conversation, or other types of positive interaction.  For example, if Cara was having a tantrum because we told her no/removed her from a potentially bad situation/took something from her, we would not pick her up and hug her to try to make it better.  A tantrum is not so effective without an audience to respond.  *side note:  I am very, very thankful that Cara's tantrums are few and short (day 17).

After reflecting on the fireplace incident and talking to lots of other moms, I think I was right and wrong.  I was right in that, honestly, we should have been watching her more closely.  I was right in that she probably knew better than to scoop ashes out of the fireplace.  BUT, I was wrong in my reaction.  I was never angry or out of control, but there was clearly no connection for Cara between playing in the fireplace and no bath toys or books.  I did not do what the doctor suggested.  I think I just made up my own plan on the fly because I had not thought through how I would handle a situation like that.

I don't think I can be a spanker right now, but not because I am judgmental of those who do spank.  I'm just not tough enough to do it yet, and I don't want to teach Cara that hitting is okay.  She won't be able to understand that hitting is bad if Mommy and Daddy hit her, even if the "hit" is spanking.  However, I suspect that as she gets older, there may be times when spanking or swatting a hand is necessary.  Or not?  I don't know.

I like time out, but I don't think Cara is there yet.  I can see this playing out in my head, and I would spend more time and energy keeping her in one spot than it is worth.  She has the attention span of a gnat right now (Are you calling me a g-nat??), and maybe I am lazy, but I don't want to fight that battle.  Yet. (What is the magic age when she could understand the connection between her behavior and time out?)

And now that I have thought it through, here's what I think we'll do.  Yesterday, Cara was trying to pull a candle holder off a table.  I took the candle holder out of her hands, got down to her eye level, held her hands in mine, and said "Mama said no.  Don't pull things off the table.  Mama said no."  Cara looked at me for a few seconds, nodded her head, and walked off to go terrorize the cat.  I think my main method is going to need to be prevention for the next few months until she's really ready for time out.  The eye-to-eye, hand-holding conversation seemed to work.  The challenge is going to be catching her before we have another fireplace incident. 

What do ya'll think?  I am still definitely open to suggestions and advice. 

And one more thing:  I am sooooo thankful for SEWING CLUB tonight!! (day 18)

Nov 16, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 16

I am thankful for advice.

Last night, Cara climbed onto the hearth and played in the ashes of the fireplace.  This is not the first time she has done this, and I suspect it won't be the last.  It made for a rather messy situation for Cara and for me. 

I feel a little confused about disciplining my 16-month-old.  Part of me thinks that she is still a baby, so she doesn't really know any better.  Following this train of thought, the fireplace situation is more my fault than hers because I should have been paying closer attention; therefore, the fireplace/toddler mess was caused by parental negligence. 

There is another part of me that thinks she most definitely knows better than to play in the fireplace.  Her face when I caught her digging in ashes sort of gave her away.  PJ and I have said "No" more times than I can count, we have removed her from the hearth kicking and screaming, we have tried to distract her, but she is a determined, stubborn little thing.  Imagine that.

When we went for Cara's 15-month visit, I asked her pediatrician how to get her to understand that no means no.  He said that the strongest discipline tool we have is withholding our affection.  Doesn't that sound so mean?  He said that we should make it clear in our voice and body language that we are serious about "no" and then ignore her.  No hugs, kisses, conversations, or anything.  When I discovered Cara in the fireplace, I figured I would give this no-love thing a try.  It was relatively close to Cara's usual bath/bed time, so I just sped the routine up a good bit.  No toys or playing in the tub, no books before bed.  Cara's feelings were very hurt by the time the bath was over, and by the time she was in her jammies, she was a very, very sad little bear.  I put her in her crib to go to bed, intending to lay her down and leave the room, but she just laid there and cried.  She didn't try to stand up and protest; she reached her little hands up and cried and cried.  I sat in her rocker and felt like a jerk.

Do all parents feel like jerks when they have to discipline their children?

I ended up rocking her for a good 20 minutes.  She sat in my lap, hugging me, staring up at me with those big, sad eyes like "Mama, I am so sad.  Do you still love me?"  I told her over and over that I loved her, but mama said not to play in the fireplace.  I realize that I am probably projecting my own reaction and emotions on Cara; she probably felt like she got what she wanted since I picked her up and rocked her. 

I call my method an epic fail because I don't think Cara connected the punishment with the crime, and I didn't exactly follow through.  I don't think I can do the withholding affection thing, and I wasn't sure that Cara really even knew better than to play in the fireplace.  So, I decided to take a very informal survey of my coworkers with kids.  I asked people with kids Cara's age or older if 1) a 16-month-old knows better; and 2) how do/did you deal with your toddler when he/she was defiant.

The response was overwhelmingly in favor of 1) yes, she knows better; and 2) time out, Supernanny style.  In fact, I heard more than once that I am probably underestimating what Cara knows and is capable of, which I think is because I don't want to see her as a toddler instead of a baby. 

Time out sounds okay, but I'm not sure how this will work out in real life.  Will she really stay in time out?  I know I will have to put her in time out immediately after she does something she's not supposed to, and I know I need to get down to her level, eye contact and all that, and explain that mommy said no.  Does this really work?

Still open to suggestions and grateful for advice...

Nov 15, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 15

I am thankful for peppers and penne.  Yummy, yummy.

Sausage, Peppers, and Penne

1/2 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 links of Italian sausage, sliced (I used chicken sausage and was surprised by how tasty it was)
1/2 lb of penne (I mixed whole wheat and regular pasta because that is what was in the cabinet)
Italian seasoning blend (or a mix of dried parsley, basil, oregano, or any other Italian-ish herbs you like)
red pepper flake
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Brown sausage in olive oil.  After two to three minutes, add veggies and saute until just tender.
  3. Add tomatoes.  Sprinkle dried herbs and red pepper flake according to how much you like.  I like a lot of both, but I hold back on the red pepper flake if Cara is going to eat with us.
  4. Simmer while pasta cooks.
  5. Add pasta to sauce and simmer a few more minutes.  I added a little bit of pasta water to thin out the sauce.
  6. Top with grated Parmesan or, if you are strange like me, a crumbled cornbread muffin.
This recipe feeds PJ, Cara, and me a healthy portion each, plus lunch for PJ and me the next day.  Delish.

Nov 14, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--days 12, 13, 14

Wow, so I'm a little behind.  Life has been a bit busy this weekend, to say the least.  I have so many things to be thankful for, but I narrowed the list to three for my three days:
  1. I am thankful for the power of prayer.
  2. I am thankful for Bitsy, who babysat tonight so that PJ and I could go to a baby shower sans the wild toddler.  Thank you so much, Bitsy!  Love you! :-)
  3. I am thankful for my friends, who are teaching me what it means to really be a friend when life is tough.  It's harder than I could have ever imagined, but my love tank is so full (not because I received love but because they are teaching me how to love).
I helped throw a shower for my bestie, Melissa.  She is the most adorable preggo (tied with Lizzy), and I am beyond excited for another one of my friends to cross over into the "married with children" madness.  Finally, someone will understand!! 

I put PJ on picture duty, and he did a pretty good job.

903 girls minus 1 (we missed you, Julie!)


Nov 11, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 11

When I was 19, my friend Julie and I got tattoos. 

In high school, we were both very different than we are now.  Julie wore lots of blue eyeshadow, had curly hair and straight bangs, and loved Led Zeppelin.  I wore not enough make up, had stringy hair, and loved Britney Spears.  After rereading those two sentences, I'm not sure how we ended up being friends, except that she was/is HILARIOUS.  So, we decided to be college roommates.  And we argued about nightlights.

I can honestly say that I loved being Julie's roommate.  We got along better than most roommates, and we are still friends, so we must have done something right.  We helped each other figure out who we were when the high school friends and the parents were gone.  We wore Salvation Army t-shirts and listened to (more) Led Zeppelin and watched Monty Python movies.  And one day Julie drew a star on her foot.  I thought it was cool, so she drew one on mine too.  The next thing we knew, we were getting those stars inked on our feet, holding hands and biting knuckles. 

I regret piercing my belly button, mainly because it stopped being cute in 2002, and it's REALLY NOT CUTE after you have been pregnant, but I have never once looked at my star with regret.  I like it because I think it's unexpected.  I'm a pretty straight-laced looking girl; I don't think people see me as the type of person who does anything wild or interesting.  Until they see my foot.

I am thankful for my star tattoo because it reminds me of a time when I was more carefree.  I didn't consider consequences or career choices or what to cook for dinner; I just did what I wanted to do.  I made good decisions and bad, but I figured out what I believe in, what I think about the world, who I am. Those were good days.

I am thankful because my star reminds me of my friend Julie.  She lives far away from me these days, and we don't talk as often as we should, but I still love the crap out of her.  I admire her courage, her confidence, and her awesome sense of style. 

Sometimes I think about getting another tattoo, but I can't commit to a body part or a design.  I like the idea of another tattoo, but I don't think I have the guts.  If I had not gotten the star when I did, I doubt I would have ever gotten a tattoo.  These days, I have to think about too many other things, and getting older makes me realize that my body changes.  Thank goodness my feet have stayed the same.

Nov 10, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 10

I am thankful for an almost Wordless Wednesday because

i. am. tired.

(Hold on there.  Wasn't this supposed to be my own intention attitude adjustment?  Let me try again...)

I am thankful for my husband's photography skills.  This is a skill and a talent I do not possess, and I sure am glad he does because we have priceless pictures of baby Cara.  Thanks, babe!

Nov 9, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 9

I am thankful for NPR for introducing me to this most awesome website.  Don't be a foppotee; check it out.  I promise it won't be a tristifical experience.

Nov 8, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 8

Tonight, I am thankful for my video camera.  I love my video camera!  How did parents ever raise children without capturing every adorable moment for posterity?? 

Exhibit A: learning to juggle

Exhibit B: signing her colors

Exhibit C: dancing (again)

On a completely unrelated note, check out the Motherlode post on different parenting philosophies.  Quite an interesting read.  Even more interesting is the list of parenting advice at the end.  One of the suggestions is:

Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning. Give them a pat on the head if they have made an extraordinary good job of a difficult task. “Psychological Care of Infant and Child,” John B. Watson, 1928

Thank goodness it is 2010 because there are moments when I cannot stop myself from squeezing that baby.  Is this urge instinctual or cultural (especially in these attachment parenting times)?  Do I feel this way because it is expected that I should, or is it something more ingrained in our nature as mommies?

Nov 7, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 7

When PJ and I were newlyweds living in a one-bedroom apartment, we used to joke that we had no friends.  We meant married friends living in town, and we weren't exactly joking.  What's weird is that almost all of my high school and college friends got married right around the time we did, but not a one of them lived in RH. 

Five years later, we are happy to report that we now have friends.  Two of my best college friends moved back to the area, and we have become good friends with quite a few families from our church.  PJ has made some great friends at work, and thankfully, their wives are awesome.  These friends all fit into different circles though.  One day, I'm going to have a huge dinner party and invite them all and make them all be friends with each other.

Tonight, I am thankful for friends.  I have been blessed with amazing heart-friendships through every season of my life, and I know I wouldn't be the person I am without all of them.

In high school, I had a tight group of five girls who knew everything about me, probably a lot of things they didn't want to know.  The thing about them is that they still liked me.  We gave each other a place to let down all the teenage walls and just be ourselves, silly, insecure, heartbroken, ridiculous, or anything else.  I am still in touch with them, though definitely not as often as I would like to be. 

In college, I made a new set of heart-friends.  We were six girls living in a run-down, disgusting house, and we loved every minute.  We fought, as you will with anyone you live with, but we had lots of fun spying on each other, spooking each other, and doing all kinds of things that do not need to be captured forever on the internet.  We all went our separate ways after graduation, but 903 girls weekends are a much anticipated event.  Even more anticipated are all the 903 babies making appearances in the coming months. 

My newest group of friends is my sewing club.  (Yes, we need a much cooler name.)  I have been getting together with some of the girls from my church to work on sewing projects and just hang out.  I have known some of these girls for years without really knowing them, and I have loved spending time with them.  Sewing club: You guys are awesome!

So, thank you all for being there for me.  I am so thankful to have friends in so many different places, from so many times in my life. 

Nov 6, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 6

Tonight, PJ, Cara, and I did our grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, which is very unusual for us.  I am a loyal Earth Fare shopper and organic grocery buyer.  So, what exactly possessed me to head to Wally World tonight? 

I normally refuse to enter Wal-Mart.  I refer to our Wal-Mart by the not-even-close-to-politically-correct moniker "Crackhead Wal-Mart."  There is no good reason for this except that Wal-Mart is always crowded with people not paying attention to where they are driving those squeaky carts, and it's always really dirty.  I feel like I get "grocery store feet" even though I'm wearing my shoes.  Wal-Mart is also lumped in with McDonalds as an "evil big corporation" (I am all about some quotation marks tonight).

I had good reasons for changing our diet this summer from convenience foodlike substances (a term stolen from Michael Pollan) to organic, local foods.  I was passionate about our new diet.  I shopped at a true local farmers' market where I bought real produce and meat from actual farmers, I made almost everything we ate from scratch, and we cut out most of the refined sugar.  Then, school started, and life got a little a lot busier.  It took me a few weeks, but I worked out ways to make this diet work for us in real life (read: during the school year), and shopping at Earth Fare was a big way to make things easier.  As the weeks wore on, I think I sort of forgot that I was shopping at an organic grocery store.  It was just grocery shopping.  I didn't pay as much attention to labels and ingredients because I didn't have to; Earth Fare has a pretty strict food philosophy

However, we are feeling a leetle strapped for cash (just like everyone else in this recession/recovery), so I thought we could forgo organic this week.  Cheap groceries, just this once.  And where do cheap groceries come from?  Of course!  Wal-Mart! 

It started almost as soon as we walked in the door, in the produce section.  I stared at the prices for bags of apples.  Did you know Wal-Mart has organics now?  I belabored the decision; the organic apples were a dollar more than regular apples.  I put the regular apples in the cart.  And then I obsessed over the pesticides all through the specialty cheeses.

"Peej, can I switch these for the organic apples?  Do you care?"

Everything else that went into the cart was organic if at all possible.  I read all the labels.  Rotel tomatoes have calcium chloride in them!!  WHY???  Can't I just have my mexican style canned tomatoes with no preservatives? 

We ended up probably spending more than we would have spent at Earth Fare.  I left Wal-Mart feeling like I had committed a moral crime, like a hit-and-run or something.  What had I done to my carbon footprint?  How had I injured the local farmers?  It was a terrible feeling.  I am complacent no more.

So, thank you, Wal-Mart, for reminding me of all the reasons that I love Earth Fare.

Nov 5, 2010

count your blessings--30 days of gratitude--day 5

I am thankful for boring Friday nights

when there is nothing to do

and no where to go

when dinner cooks itself

and everyone likes it

when babies are tired

and mommies and daddies are snuggly.
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